Smart India – Gen Bikram Singh at AIMA’s 60th Foundation Day

AIMA celebrated its 60th Foundation Day & 10th National Management Day on 20th February 2016 at Hotel Le Meridien, New Delhi. The theme of the celebrations was “Smart India”General Bikram Singh, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Retired), Former Chief of the Indian Army & Chairman, Chiefs of Staff was the Chief Guest. Below is an excerpt of his speech on ‘Smart India’.

General Bikram Singh, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Retired), Former Chief of the Indian Army & Chairman Chiefs of Staff addressing the Inaugural session.

General Bikram Singh, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Retired), Former Chief of the Indian Army & Chairman Chiefs of Staff addressing the Inaugural session.

I have been associated with  AIMA for a while now and this is the third time I am here. One of the reasons for accepting this opportunity to be here today is also the theme ‘Smart India’. To a soldier, anything that talks about enhancing the honor and prestige of India is something which is very appealing and the event theme  ‘smart India’ is indeed very appealing. I am sure, not only to a soldier but to all of us.

 As a soldier when I envision the Smart India dream, which has been annunciated by our honorable Prime Minister, the foundation of this dream hinges on technology. It hinges on the digital India. But I think we need to take up more holistic view of this entire dream.To convert it into reality, I feel there are three prongs of the strategy which have got to be borne in mind. The first one is creating the Ecosystem, the environment which is smart. Second, we have to ensure that we have to be able to monitor and manage this environment through E-governance and the last but not the least which we tend to forget is that, this entire dream has got to be transformed into reality by all of us, by the nation. We got to train our leaders, managers and skill the people to make sure that this dream comes true. Therefore, the transformation hinges on all of us.

Talking of the smart environment look at the smart urban and rural planning, the smart building, and smart energy, clean energy and smart transportation system, smart water and waste management, smart security and safety, smart manufacturing and smart disaster management capability of the country. The various facets which create that environment and will establish India in its rightful position among the community of other nations, it entails the application of all elements to achieve this dream of Smart India. Now when you look at the urban and rural planning, we need to look around and see what happened to China. We got to see what impact of this urbanization is going to happen and how is it going to affect the lives of the people.

The cities and the urban centers in the past, came up along the cantonments; military cantonments.  You’d find the habitat of mushrooming around the military cantonments and these became township and cities in times to come. The cities have also come up as part of the industrialization process. But now the cities which are being created, the smart cities, the smart villages, they are going to become a hub of the economic activities of our country.  They are going to be the center, the launch pads for enhancing the economic activities as far as the country is concerned.

We got to be mindful of the fact that we should plan with regards to the rural and urban environment. All most, five hundred million people are going to migrate from rural belt into the urban centers by 2050. The present strength, as per the census of 2011 was 377 million. It will go up to 877 million, an increase by 500 million. So when we look at urbanizing, when we look at the smart cities or Smart Townships coming up, they got to have the resilience to be able to absorb this pressure,. and we regulate this migration keeping mind the agro component of our economy in mind. So this requires details and very deliberate thoughts. The other point is as we expand the urban areas,. the ecological balance is something which will have to be taken care of. The next is that we can’t afford to ignore the villages. As per the “Sansad Aadrash Gram Yojna” there are 2005 villages which are also being developed into smart villages and our honorable Prime Minister has said if India has to grow it has to start from the villages. How true! So even this is going to be balanced growth and it would not be only related to the cities and urbanized centers.

The next is creating smart buildings and smart energy. When you look at the smart buildings, there should be the use of natural light,rainwater harvesting, and recycling of the waste. The Automation technologies for effective operations in the building, smart monitoring for device compatibility, Voice commands, wireless connectivity; these are somethings that we have to look into.

Lot of emphasis is on the Smart Energy.  Looking at the ‘Make in India’ and the aspirations of the country, the requirement of energy is going to go up by 3 times. So the government is already focused on renewal energy, green energy, wind energy, sound energy and solar energy because we cannot afford to continue with the present means which are polluting the environment.

The smart transportation system is nothing else but giving a variety of user-friendly options to the people. And this will have to be region to region based and keeping in mind the aspirations of the people. The smart water and waste management, the annual per capita water availability is likely to decline from 1545 cubic meters in 2011 to 1140 cubic meters in 2050. Also, 38 million Indians are affected by water borne diseases. The portability of the water is something to be looked into.The smart security and safety is another aspect that needs to be looked into. We cannot totally bank on the systems that we have today. We got to develop security around our installations, our establishments when we go for smart India.

Smart India has got to be robust. We have to ensure that we have a value based environment in our country. Values which hinges on society values based on our scriptures, over a period of time, by all the religion. I was in Dubai speaking at the United Nations forum on interfaith harmony and my take away was that all the religions teach same values. Therefore that respect for diversity, integrity, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, moral courage is something we got to build into our society when we look to become a smart nation. We got to look into the basic foundation which hinges on all of us and on the values.

Along with this, we got to look at the smart manufacturing maintaining the balance between planet, people, profit and all the stakeholders. We have to look at the smart disaster management capability. Our country is prone to a large number of disasters. 85% of our landmass is vulnerable to 1 or more disasters, annually. And we have almost 60% of landmass which is vulnerable to earthquakes, 68%  to drought, 8% to cyclones and 12% to floods.  We have a mechanism today, National Disaster Management authority, but it also comes on every citizen of our country to get involved and be part of every initiative of the country. Unless Smart India has the ownership of all of us; it will not succeed. Similarly, when I talk about disaster, every individual who has the dream to see India rise towards its rightful place should get involved. We got to put our shoulders together to make sure we contribute in a whole hearted manner.

Now, the next pillar is of e-governance which has been identified as one of the nine pillars in the digital India mission. The foundation of the national e-governance dates back to May 2006 and this has been in short arms as far as this particular initiative is concerned. And this aims at providing every citizen the accessibility through common service delivery outlets and to ensure efficiency, transparency, and reliability of such services at affordable cost. But we are woefully lacking in the information and communication technology. We are nowhere near to the international standards, we rank 89th out of 143 countries. We may be dreaming of becoming smart but the compatibility of our IT, our communication is something to be looked into.

The third pillar is the smart human capital which is healthy, robust and vibrant. And for that, the health care got to be looked into. The health facilities are lacking at the moment. We are packed at 0.9 per thousand beds. When you compare it to the world the average is 2.7. While we are today a medical tourism center but if you look at the aspirations of a commoner they are not being addressed. These are going to be taken as a part of our social responsibility collectively to make sure that we have strong healthy citizens. And along with this education, creating the skilled force is also important. It is covered by the president in his talk.

And we got to create the leaders with the desired attributes. The desired mental, emotional, physical attributes; having the desired competencies: whether technical, tactical, conceptual, interpersonal; and giving them values because they have to be the leaders of tomorrow, the leaders of character and competence.  As a military leader, I think I’ll fail in my duty if I did not point out why the dream of smart India is good. It’s an excellent dream. You got the resources, strategies the ends are known and means are known; now the beauty lies in evolving the ways. That is where leadership comes in. Unless people are part and parcel of this initiative, no initiative is going to succeed, because unless they own it we will not be able to shun this habit of procrastination.  Timelines have to be met. There can’t be time overrun or cost overruns. Time overrun leads to cost overruns. We got to ensure that all the initiatives are completed as per the specified timelines. And that will only happen once ownership comes in and people start believing that this dream is theirs. It requires the concurrent initiative through our education institutions, the academic institutions, think tanks, through our media to make sure we develop this ownership. Therefore synergizing the effort right from the apex level down below at the grass root level is something we’ll have to create a mechanism to look into this. This is going to be a big challenge for the leadership. To make sure we will be able to synergize the effort to able to achieve the end as per the laid down time frames

 Monitoring is very important because monitoring not only from the point of view of ensuring that we complete the task but also from the point of view of keeping pace with the technology. If you are looking at smart India we’ll have to keep pace with the technology which is changing every day. We got to ensure we monitor the environment in a great detail. We have to bring change. We’ll have to change the frames of reference of the people to achieve this dream. It cannot be achieved with the present setup. The training will have to be all-compassing where we’ll have to look at the skilled labor. If integrity and loyalty come into the society, through our schools, colleges, and through various think tanks, Trust me we will be able to see the light of the day and achieve the end which has been stipulated as part of this dream.

And the other point I would like to touch upon is is cyber-security. If this dream of smart India is going to hinge on technology, then we got to ensure that we ruggedize against any cyber-attacks. We should be able to safeguard our plans, our interests, our initiatives because you can’t afford to have people interfering. All over the world, 354 billion US dollar has been lost to the international corporates in a year 2015! So, once we start to achieve the rightful position we will be targeted. And this is one place where we got to be ruggedized.

We are getting over 90%softwares from the United States. We got to start having our own R&D and developing the IT and cyber security products in our own country which are indigenous, and immune to any interference. The moment you start getting stuff from the United States, It will create a problem in the times to come. So we have to look at the R& D as far as cyber security is concerned. We are 89th among 143 countries in Network readiness index. We keep patting our back, thumping our chest saying that we are best in IT all over the world. Yes, we have some outstanding youngsters, our brains are the best on this earth, our people are doing very well but collectively the mechanism that is supposed to be created in terms of disallowing any penetration into our cadre system, our ICS system, our production, our command, and control structures, it’s something we’ll have to be looked into. Most of our production systems today start on ICS. They got to be protected.  The greatest loss has been to the financial services When you look at the 354 billion US dollar has been lost last year.

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